The Truth About Your Skin's Acid Mantle

Have you ever washed your face and afterward thought that it felt just a little bit too clean? While you may have assumed that your skin is naturally dry or sensitive, the reality is that your products and routine may be causing damage to an important layer on the surface of your skin known as the acid mantle, a thin film comprised of your body's natural oils (via Good Housekeeping).

According to Good Housekeeping, physicians have been studying the functions of the acid mantle since the early 1900s. However, it is only in recent years that skin care companies have begun to cater to the maintenance and repair of this protective layer. Town & Country cites its ability to keep harmful bacteria and toxins from penetrating the skin's surface and causing damage, as well as locking in the healthy oils to keep skin looking and feeling youthful and healthy. In order to keep the acid mantle balanced, it needs to maintain a pH of around 5.5.

This balance allows the acid mantle to function as a barrier to protect the skin against irritants. Dermatologist Whitney Bowe told the site, "When our skin has this slightly acidic pH, the barrier is healthy and intact. This acidic pH of the skin protects against overgrowth of pathogens — bad bugs, essentially — that thrive at a higher, more alkaline pH. The acidic pH also protects against aging."

Taking care of the acid mantle

Dryness, dullness, and skin sensitivity can be caused by the skin's acid mantle having a more alkaline pH, and often begins with our skin care routine. The skin naturally becomes more alkaline as you age, per Mind Body Green, which makes having the right skin care routine important. 

In order to have an effective routine, it's important to understand your skin's acid mantle and what steps to take to maintain a healthy pH balance. While skin care companies won't often disclose the exact pH of their products, you can still find the right products for maintaining a healthy acid mantle. According to Good Housekeeping, looking for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and probiotics can help maintain the ideal pH of 5.5. It's also important to know what to avoid.

Products with alcohol as the main ingredient can wreak havoc on the acid mantle. Making the switch from an alcohol-based cleanser to an oil or cream-based product can be a good place to start when updating your skin care routine. While you may miss the lather of your regular cleanser, there's a hood chance you'll notice a difference in your skin. It's also best to move away from using harsh exfoliants. The New York Times notes that physical exfoliant products, like grainy scrubs, should be replaced with chemical exfoliants like lactic, glycolic, and salicylic acids and used only 1-2 times a week.

The secret to healthy, beautiful skin is knowing how to let its natural protective functions thrive while maintaining the right routine. Now that you've become acquainted with your acid mantle, it will be easier to take care of it so you can maintain gorgeous skin for years to come.